Pourquoi la Bible des Septante a-t-elle traduit le zemer du Deutéronome en kamelopardalis ? Réflexions sur le statut symbolique et alimentaire de la girafe

Thierry BUQUET

fr Anthropozoologica 41 (1) - Pages 7-25

Published on 30 June 2006

Why did the Bible of the Seventy translate the zemer of Deuteronomy into kamelopardalis? Reflections on the symbolic and food statute of the giraffe

In the Hebraic Bible, Deuteronomy gives a list of pure animals suitable for consumption (ruminants with split hoofs) among which figures the zemer, hapax which exact zoonymic meaning is lost. The Greek version of the Bible, known as the Seventy, written in Alexandria during the IIIth BC., translated zemer by kamelopardalis, the giraffe. The article proposes to study the conditions under which this problematic translation was done while trying to release its philological (history of its name), historical (knowledge of the animal in Ptolemaic Egypt and during the Antiquity), and zoological motivations (assumptions of identification of the zemer, classification of the kamelopardalis among the ruminants), when the giraffe was little known by the Greeks, whereas the biblical passage in question remains the earliest known evidence of the word kamelopardalis in the Hellenistic literature. The aim of this article is to study the food statute (Is meat of giraffe eaten? Is it regarded as pure and licit among the Jews and Moslems?) and symbolic system (exemplary, soft and virtuous ruminant?) allotted to the giraffe, whereas this incorporation in the biblical bestiary then contributes to announce this exotic animal to the medieval Occident. By examining the elements of the various zoo-historical investigations and exegesis conducted from Antiquity to the Modern Time, we highlight the symbolic aspects which mainly explain the presence of the giraffe in Greek Deuteronomy.


Giraffe, zemer, Bible, Deuteronomy 14,5, Bible animals, clean animals, food proscriptions, animal naming.

Download full article in PDF format Order a reprint